M. (Paul) Rapin de Thoyras.

The history of England : written in French (Volume 1) online

. (page 148 of 360)
Online LibraryM. (Paul) Rapin de ThoyrasThe history of England : written in French (Volume 1) → online text (page 148 of 360)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




Vol. I.




Reigns of Henry II, Richard I, John Lackland,

and Henry III.

' °f lbt "TT^k. URING the four laft Reigns which we have
» juft gone through, the Affairs of the Church
were lb mixed with thofe of the State, that
there was a neceffity of relating them together.
And indeed, the Contefts between Henry II, and Thomas
Beckct, and between 'John and Innocent III, and the Ty-
ranny exercifed by the Popes in England under Henry III,
furnifh the chief Materials for the Ecclefiajlical Hijlory of
thefe three Reigns. That of Richard I, was the only one
where the Church had no influence ; unlefs we are to con-
fider theCrufade, in which that Prince was engaged, as an
Affair purely Ecclefiaftical. Theie are who look upon
thefe four Reigns as a time of Triumph for the Church,
becaufe in their notion of the Church the Pope and Clergy
only are included. Others are of opinion, this was a time
of Oppreffion and Slavery, becaufe Chriftians were expofed
to the Oppreffions of the Popes, who fhamefully abufed the
Authority they were fuffered to affume.

The bare reading of the Hiltory of thefe four Reigns is
fufKcient to fhew, it is not without reafon that I have fo
much inlarged on the prodigious Increafe or the Papal Power,
fince it was to be the principal Subject of the enluing Hi-
ftory. We have feen the pernicious Effects of this Power
affumed by the Popes. It remains now to ihew on what
Principles they eftablifhed their Authority, and the Con •
fequences they drew from thence, to extend it more and
more. This is a thing the more worthy of notice, as it is
to be confidered as the Spring of all the remakable Events
which happened in the Church of England for feveral Cen-
Principles en The firft Principle was, That Jefus Chrijl committed
: , ; the InftrucTion of the Faithful, to the care of the Minilters
of his Church, from whence were drawn thefe two In-
ferences. Firft, That the Faithful ought to fubmit to
the Decifions of thefe fame Minilters in matters of Faith.
Secondly, That Laymen had no manner of Right to decide,
or even to examine, the Difficulties which might arife about
thefe matteis, but ought implicitely to follow the Deter-
minations of the Ecclefiafticks. This manifeftly fuppofes
Infallibility in the Minilters of the Church. But as this
Supposition was founded upon the Promifes of Ch rift to his
Church in general, and as the Confequence drawn from
thence, for the Infallibility of the Minilters in particular,
was not fufficiently evident, an Expedient was found to
blind the eyes of the World, by confounding the geneial
Notion of the Church with that of the Clergy in particular.
Thus by degrees the Clergy alone were called the Church,
and to them only were applied the Promifes of Chrift, made
to all Chriftians in geneial. So that, in faying with
Chrijl, the Gates of Hell fhould not prevail againrt the
Church, they exprefly meant, that the Clergy or Coun-
cils, wholly confiding of the feveral Members of the Clergy,
(huuid be infallible in their Decisions. The Mifinterpreta-
tion theiefore of the Word Church, was one of the chief
Caufes of the Blindnefs of Chriftians. The Reader will be
able to extend his Reflections on this head; for I purpofe
only juft to point out the feveral Steps by which the Ec-
cieliaftical Power is arrived to fo prodigious a Height.

The fecond Principle was, That Jefus Chrijl not only
appointed Ministers in his Church, "for the Instruction of
the Faithful, but alio to infpeci their Life and Converfation.
Hence it was inferred, That it belonged to the Paftors to
declare to their Flocks, what was juft and agreeable to
the Laws of God, and what not. Frcm this Principle
was drawn this farther Confequence, that not only they
had a Right to exhort the Faithful, andcenfure them when
they neglected their Dutv, but alfo to punifh them when
in a Hate of Impenitence.

i i a third Principle it was laid down, That the Church
oif'J Ch .-' ought to be pure and holy, without Spot or

Power ic'JJ

Firft Primi

Se i d I

Third Pn

Wrinkle, and therefore it was neceflary to ufe all poflible
Endeavours to prevent her being polluted either with Sins
or Errors. Now as, by the foiegoing Principles, the
Clergy alone had the Right of Instruction and Infpe&ion,
it followed, that to them belonged the care of preferving
the Purity of the Church.

This led to a fourth Principle, That in order to preferve Fourtb
the Church pure, it was neceflary to cut off the rotten <'/*•
Branches. The confequence from thence was, that when
a Cliriftian fuffered himfelf to be corrupted either by Sin or
Error, he was to be excommunicated, that is, cutofffroril
the Body of the Church. It is very eafy to fee, that ac-
cording to the foregoing Principles, it was the Clergy's
Bufinefs to perform this Cutting- off, and that they acquired
thereby a great Authority, and a profound refpe£t from all

If the Governors of the Church had all been Holy and
Infallible, thefe feveral Principles with their Inferences,
would have produced only good Effects, and a Difcipline
very profitable to Salvation would have been preferved in
the Church. But they happened to be too frequently fwayed
by Intereft, Caprice, or the Impulfe of an ill-governed
Zeal. And therefore, it could not but be thought very
improbable, that God fhould Subject: his Church to the Paf-
ftons and Prejudices of his Minilters. Hence it was natu-
ral to conclude, either thefe Principles were falfe, or at leaft,
the Confequences carried too far. This Beliel could fcarce
fail to breed a Contempt for unjuft and rafh Excommu-
nications, which had even fome Influence on the moft
regular. Every one is very naturally inclined to imagine
himfelf unjuftly condemned. From this Contempt pro-
ceeded an Unconcern in the Perfons excommunicated to
be leconciled to the Church, and to give her the Satisfaction
fhe required.

If in the Excommunications, the Clergy had only aimed
at preferving the Church's Purity, they would have been
contented with cutting off the rotten Members, and griev-
ing at the Obltinacy of thofe who neglected to be absolved.
But this was not what affected them moft : Satisfaction
was their chief Concern. The Reafon is, becaufe moft
of the Excommunications were thundered againft fuch as
incroached on the Lands or Immunities of the Clergy, to
whom alone the Name of Church was all along appro-
priated. It was neceflary therefore, for the Intereft of the
Clergy, to oblige thofe who were cut off from the Body
ot the Church, to be reconciled to her, and give her Sa-
tisfaction. For this Caufe another Principle was elta-
blilhed : Tltaxfpiritual Penalties not being fufpeient to con-
quer the Ohjlinacy of hardened Sinners, it was neceflary, for
the Glory of God, to make ufe of temporal Punijhmcnts, to
force them to Obedience. Upon this Foundation, the Clergy,
who were already in polieifion of regulating all Matters
relating to religion, came to this Decition in their Coun-
cils : That excommunicated Perfons were not only to be fe-
paratedfrom the Afftmblies of the Church, but alfo from all
intercourfe with the Faithful. If this rigorous Law had
been itriCtly obferved, the Excommunicated would quick-
ly have ended their Days for want of the Ailiftance,
which Men naturally give one another, unlefs they had
chofen to go and live among the Infidels. But as it was
not poflible to hinder their Relations and Friends from
affording them fome Relief, though the contrary often
happened, another Expedient was found to put the Perfons
cut off from the Church under a Neceiiity to fubmit to
her Orders, that is, to thofe of the Clergy. It was or-
dained in the Councils, that if within forty Days after Ex-
cmvnunicatim, the Party excommunicated did not fue to be
reconciled to the Church, the Magi/Irate, upon the Bi/hop's
Complaint, Jhould be obliged to caji him into Prifn, and con-
fifcate his Ejiate. So that when a Chriftian was excom-



Book VIII.



municated, he was to cxpe£t to tofe his Liberty and Pro-
perty, or make the Church fucii Satisfaction, as the
Church herfelf, that is, the Clergy fhould judge proper.
This Decree of the Councils would hardly have been
enacted into a Law, if Sovereigns had not found their
Advantage in it, by means of the Confiscations. They did
not expect, that this fevere Treatment was ever like to
reach them. But when once they admitted the Piinciple
of the unlimited Authority affijmed by the Church, they
quickly experienced that, as Chriftians, they had no more
Privilege than their Subjects. The Popes, whofe Power
daily encreafed, extended it at length over crown'd Heads.
1 hey made no fcruple to excommunicate Princes them-
felves, who were frequently deferted by their own Sub-
jects and Domefticks, and to deprive them of their King-
doms, and give them to others.

The fame Principles, then eftablifhcd for private Per-
sons, extended to Kings and Emperors. There was at
fnft but one thing which diftinguifhed an excommunicated
Prince from a private Pel'fon ; namely, that his Subjects
were bound to him by an Oath, which many could not
think of violating, on pretence that their Sovereign was
excommunicated. But the Popes found means to remove
this Scruple, by abfolving them from their Oath of Alle-
giance, by the Plenitude of their Apoftolical Power. This
■was in confequence of the Maxim before eftablifhcd,
That an excommunicated Per [on was to be deprived of his

All this however was not fufficient to compel excom-
municated Princes, to give the Church the Satisfaction fhe
demanded. There were many of their Subjects who were
not convinced, that the Pope had Power to excommuni-
cate Sovereigns. Others were of opinion, that as long
as a King was on the Throne, his Subjects ought not
to refufe him the Obedience due to him. Some, though
perfuaded of the Pope's Authority, thought it unlawful "to
take up Arms againit the King actually reigning. Others
again durft not venture on fo hazardous an Undertaking,
which mig"ht end in their own and their Families Ruin.
To furmount thefe Difficulties, the Popes bethought them-
felves of thefe two things. The firft was, to depofe ex-
communicated and obftinate Kings, in a Council, or only
m a Confiftory, in order to remove all Scruples from their
Subjects. The fecond was, to commiffion fome powerful
Prince to execute their Sentence, to the end that join-
ing with thofe Subjects who were only reftrained by Fear,
the depofed Prince might be compelled to fubmit to the
Church. Ot this, without going any farther, we have
feen a terrible Inftance in the Quarrel between Innocent III
and King 'John.

In this manner, from Principles which might be origi-
nally good, confidered in themfelves, fuch Conlequences
were drawn, as tended to erect the Spiritual Jurisdiction
of the Church into a temporal and abfolute Monarchy.
Indeed, could a Chriftian help regarding, as his real
Mafters, Men, who difpofed of his Eftate, his Honour,
his Life, and his Salvation ? What is more ftrangc, is,
that Chriftians mould themfelves be fo blind, as to admit
all thefe Principles, with their unlimited Conlequences,
and fuffer fuch a Syftem to be built thereon, as wholly
tended to enflave them. It is true, it was thought at
laft, though too late, neceflary to fet bounds to the abfo-
lute Power, aflumed by the Pope and Clergy, and extended
by degrees over all forts of things. But there was ftrong
Oppofition, and a Refiftance fo much the greater, as
Time had been given them to confirm themfelves in their

This is the principal Subject of the Ecclefiaftical Hi-
ftory of England, during feveral Centuries, and efpecially
during the four Reigns now before us. Except a few
Events, it contains only Affairs refulting from the exor-
bitant Power engroffed by the Pope and the Clergy.
The fole aim of the Councils was to maintain the Pri-
vileges and Immunities of the Church, that is, of the
Clergy ; for thefe two are generally confounded. All
the Papal Projects tended only to extend their Authority,
as well over the Laity, and the Sovereigns themfelves,
as over the Clergy. If they have not been able to keep
the exceffive Power to which they were arrived, it is
entirely owing to the ill Ufe they made of it ; which
caufed them to lofe by degrees the Regard paid to every
thing flowing from the Holy See. The bare Fails re-
lated in this Hiftory, concerning the Affair of Thomas
Beckct, the depofing of King John, and the Oppreffions
England endured from Rome, during the long Reign of
Henry III, are fufficient to convince all reafonable and
unprejudiced Perfons, of the Rigor, wherewith the Popes
exercifed the Authority they had been Suffered to allume.
How much more convincing would it be, fhould we add

No. 1 8. Vol. I.

to thefe Inftanccs, what paffed on the fame Subject, in
all the other Chriftian Kingdoms ? But to confine my
fclf wholly to England, I Shall only remark, that Becket'%
Affair carried the Pope's Power in England higher than
ever; after a Prince, fo haughty as Henry II, was forced
to fubmit to a fhamcful Discipline. The Horhage King
'John was obliged to do the Pope, raifed this Power to
its utmoft height. From that time the Popes looked
upon England as a conquered Country, with which they
did not think themfelves obliged to keep any mea-
fures. This is manifeft throughout the whole Reign of
Henry III.

It muft be farther obferved, that if the Rigour where-
with the Popes treated England, ferved for fome time to
keep the Kingdom in Subjection, it proved in the end the
chief Caufc of the decay of their Power, when Circum*
fiances came to be altered. As they carried it too far,
they made the Englijh, naturally jealous of their Liberty,
defire to throw off fo intolerable a Yoke. According-
ly, when a favorable juncture offered, they failed not to ■
improve it, and the rather as they found themfelves fup-
ported by the Clergy, who felt, no lefs than the People,
the Effects of the Pope's Tyranny. This will appear in
fome of the following Reigns. Mean time, we are to
confider the Days of John and Henry III, as thofe
wherein the Papal Power was at the higheft in England,
and, if I miftake not, in moft other Kingdoms of Eu-
rope. I might confirm my Affertion with number'efs
Proofs, if what has been faid did not appear to me fuffi-
cient. They who delire to fee a more particular Ac-
count of the unjuft and violent Proceedings of the Court
of Rome, with refpect to England, during the Reigns of
John and Henry III, may, for their Satisfaction, confulr.
the Hiftory of Matthew Paris, who treats of them at
large. It is true indeed, Endeavours have been ufed to
deftroy the Credit of this Author. But Men of Senfe
don't look upon, as an Evidence of Unfaithfulnefs, bare
Allegations without Proofs.

The frequent Contefts about the Elections of Bifhops C<mt<flt <*■>
and Abbots, make alfo a confiderable Article of the Af- ^" f£ "' / "
fairs of the Church. But as I have had frequent occa-
fion to fpeak of them, it will be needlefs to enlarge any
farther upon that Subject. It will fuffice to point out in
general, what ferved for Foundation to thefe Difputes.
As to the See of Canterbury, the Monks of St. Augujlin's
pretended, that the Right of electing the Archbifhops be-
longed to them, exclufive of all others, But the Suffra-
gan Bifhops of that See maintained, they had an equal
Right with the Monks. On the other hand, the Court
would not willingly fuffer any to be promoted to the
Archiepifcopal Dignity, but whom they approved of.
So that, directly or indirectly, the Court had all along a
great Share in the Elections. Thefe feveral Interefts were
the occafion, that hardly could an Archbifhop be chofen
without fome Conteft. One while, becaufe the Monks
elected, without confulting the Suffragan Bifhops ; another
while, becaufe the Bifhops made a different Choice from
that of the Monks. Sometimes the Monks themfelves made
a double Election ; and fometimes it happened, that the
Prelate not being agreeable to the King, could not obtain
his Confirmation. The Court of Rome reaped great
Advantages from thefe Controverfies, fince to her was re-
ferred the Decifion thereof. Upon thefe occafions the Popes
made it a Rule, to declare in favour of him who appeared
beft affected to the Holy See. Oftentimes, by the Fulnefs
of their Apoftolical Power, they annulled the Elections
made with unanimous Confent, and caufed whom they
pleafed to be elected. Of this we meet with feveral In-
stances in the Hiftory of England.

Thefe Distentions reigned almoft as much in the Elec-
tions of the other Bifhops and Abbots. The Court had
ever among thofe that had a Right to vote, a Party,
which generally carried it from the others. At leaft, it
was ftrong enough to hinder the Election of fuch as were
difagreeable to the King. Whatever happened, they raif-
ed Difputes, which were referred to the Pope's Decifion.
Then it was that the King made ufe of fuch means
with the Pope, as feldom tailed of Succefs. This fre-
quently occurs in the Hiftory of the Church of England.
But it Suffices to have made here thefe few Remarks,
without its being neceflary to infift any farther on this

The Immunities very often granted by the Court of Cm;emng
Ro;nc, to Churches and Monafteries, in prejudice of the l ' rmm '""'
Bifhops, were moreover a fertile Source of Difputes.
Thefe Immunities regarded either the Vifitation of the
Religious Houfes, or the Elections of the Abbots, or the
Difpenfation to fome Bifhops to be abfent from the Coun-
cils. All thefe Articles produced an infinite Number of
Tttt Suits,



Vol. I.

A mixt


Council of
againjl lie
W. Neub.

1. 2. C. 13.

Spel. Cor.c.
T. II. p. 59
t- 555. Gk

to make one ftand amazed at the Raftinefs of fome Prote-
ftant Authors, who, upon tha Credit of William of Ncw-
burgb the Monk, and fome others of the fame Order,
have fo roughly handled thefe pretended Hercticks.

Gervale in his Chronicle fpeaks of another Council con •
vened by Henry II, where he fays, that Prince caufed the
Bifhops to fwear to obey his Orders, before he had in-
formed them of his Intentions. He adds, that in Confe-
quence of this Oath, he would have obliged them to with-
draw their Obedience from Alexander III, and own the
Antipope ; but that the Prelates flatly refufed it. It feems
that Gervafe, who was a Monk of St. Augujiine's and
Cotemporary with Becket, fhould have perfect knowledge
of all that paff'ed in that Archbifhop's Conteft with the
King. But as he is extremely partial in Favor of Bccket,
and befides, no other Hiftorian fpeaks of this Council, one
can hardly doubt its being a Fiction. The only Founda-
tion for it, is Henry's writing to the Archbifhop of Co-
logne, as was laid in the Hiftory of his Reign. I fhall juft
obferve here, that certain modern Hiftorians, relying too
much on the Authority of Gervafe, who was Bccket's
Creature, have unwarily taken him for guide in their
Account of this Quarrel. Hence they have been led to
favour the Archbifhop, and infinuate as if he was unjuftly
perfecuted by the King. This, added to what I remarked
in the foregoing Inftance, fhews howeafily Hiftorians fuf-
fer themfelves to be drawn infenfibly into the Notions
or Prejudices of thofe that have writ before them (2).

In 1 175, Richard Archbifhop of Canterbury convened Synod *t
in Weflminfter (3) a national Synod, where he caufed to ^' ftmm "
be read fome Canons, drawn up by himfelf. They moftly Genas.
relate to Ecclefiaftical Discipline, and the Celibacy of the Brcmpt.
Prieffs, which was not yet thoroughly eftablifhed. Roger,
Archbifnop of Tori, was not prefent at this Synod, but
fent Agents, who protefted, in his Name, againft three
things wherein he thought himfelf aggrieved. Firft, he Difpnm U-
complained of being denied the Privilege of having the Crofs '^'ojlck-
carried before him in the Province of Canterbury. In the njbift.
fecond place, he complained, that the Bifhopricks of Lin-
coln, Chcjler, IVorceJler [and Hereford] were unjuftly taken
from the Jurifdiction of the See of York. His third Grie-
vance was, on account of an Ex-communication denounced
by the Archbifhop of Canterbury againft fome Clergymen
of St. Ofwald's in Glocejler. Hence it is evident, that the
old Difputes between the two Metropolitans were ftill kept
on foot, notwithstanding the Care taken to put an end to
them, in the Reign of Henry I.

What paffed the next Year 1176, in a Synod held by Cerva *'
Huguccio the Pope's Legate (4), is a farther Evidence ol p™™?,
this matter. The Archbifhop of York feating himfelf Hovcd.
on the Right-hand of the Legate (j), the Archbifhop of
Canterbury's Domefticks fell upon him and dragged him
thence, and trampled upon him. This Accident caufed the
Synod to break up, and was followed with a long Procefs,
which occafioned the two Metropolitans to carry to the
Court of Rome feveral Appeals, from whence fhe reaped
great Advantages (6).

In the Year 1183, the Pope defiring Henry II to pro- Expedient °f
cure him a Subfidy from the Clergy, to enable him to ^'„<-"f;£
carry on the War againft the Emperor, the King afTem- Pope for fear
bled the Prelates, to acquaint them with the Pope's De- 'f c '"f'-
mand. The Clergy not daring to refufe the Aid the Pon- ?""""*
tiff required, and on the other hand, dreading it might be
made a Precedent, contrary to the Liberties of the Church
of England, ufed this Expedient to content him. They
entreated the King to give the Pope what he thought
reafonable, promifing to repay him whatever he fhould
advance (7).

In this Reign two Councils were held in Ireland, the Synod at
firft was convened at Armagh, prefently after the Con- Ir ^£
quefts of the Englijh. It was decreed in this Synod, that Git. Camb.
all the Englijh Slaves fhould be enfranchifed ; the Prelates Hib. Expa.
being perfuaded, that the Calamities their Ifland began to c> '
fuffer, proceeded from the Irijh detaining in fiavery, Men,
who were Chriftians as well as themfelves. Befides, they
coniidered, that Encouragement was given to Pyrates, by
affording them an Opportunity of felling their Slaves irv
Ireland. The other Synod was held at Cajhcl, to put the Another at
Church of Ireland upon the fame foot, with the Church H Jj™"

Gir. Camb.

(1) The rValdenfe: publiihcd the Articles of their Faith, which they dedicated to the French King, who was then perfecting them. The Monks c. 34-
would have concealed their Dodrincs, but they came to light, partly by the Quarrels of the Papifts among thcmlclves, and partly by the tak.ng of Mon.
tbrun in 1585, by the Marcfchal dc Lefdiguicres, a Proteftant, who faved the Records of the Perkcutions, found in that Place, when the Monks d:figncd
to have burnt them, becaufe they not only contained an account of the Cruelties againft the WMufih but proved, that their Doctrine was the lame
with Ours. This makes XoAta'a Conjecture the more probable, and (hould be a Caution to Proteftant Writers, not to condemn too haftily for Heret.cks,
all that are reprcfented as fuch by the Monks.

(a) In the Year 1176, Cardinal Vivian was fent Legate into Scotland and Ireland. Homed, p. 553,

(3) May 18. Homed. Brcmpt. p. IJOI.

(4) He came to England about the end of October, 1175. Gir-vas, p. 1432.

(5) This was in March 1176. Cervas, p. 1433.

(61 This fame Year, li'iliiam King of Scotland, and the Bifhops, Abbots, and Priors of his Kingdom, being at 1 Great Council, or Parliament, at
Northampton, King Henry required them to make their Submiflion to the Church of England; but they refilled. Hsved, p. 550.

{j) In 1 iSS, a~Synod was held at Gcytinton, in Ntrtbamplcnjbirt, about the Crufade. Bnmpt. p. 1149. Ch, Mai/ns, p. 177. Hcvcd. p. 641.


Suits, of which the whole Profit accrued to the Pope ;
who under this pretence, commanded the Parties to re-
pair to Rome to defend their refpeclive Rights. When
once they were there, they never faw the end of their
Suits unlefs by Prefents they found means to procure
difpatch ; and he that gave moft, generally came off beft.
Of this it would not be difficult to give feveral Inftances.
But there is no occafion to prove a Fact fo well known
and .averred. It is time now to proceed to the Councils
during the four Reigns we are fpeaking of.

COUNCILS in the Reign of

Online LibraryM. (Paul) Rapin de ThoyrasThe history of England : written in French (Volume 1) → online text (page 148 of 360)